Debra Prinzing

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SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Meet Berkeley’s Eco-Floral Maven, Pilar Zuniga of Gorgeous and Green (Episode 116)

November 20th, 2013

Pilar Zuniga is a Berkeley-based, eco-Green floral designer and outspoken advocate for locally-grown, sustainable flowers and design practices.

Pilar Zuniga is a Berkeley-based, eco-Green floral designer and outspoken advocate for locally-grown, sustainable flowers and design practices.

Meet Pilar Zuniga, owner of Gorgeous and Green, a Berkeley-based boutique and eco-floral design studio. She’s my guest in this week’s Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing.

Pilar started Gorgeous and Green nearly six years ago after she discovered how hard it was to plan her own sustainably-minded wedding. Since then, her venture has expanded from a floral studio designing for weddings and special events to a charming storefront on College Avenue in Berkeley.

One of Gorgeous and Green's bridal bouquets in a sultry green and dark purple color scheme.

One of Gorgeous and Green’s bridal bouquets in a sultry green and dark purple color scheme.

There, you can find a full-service floral and gift shop that carries uncommon goods, curated by Pilar, including vintage jewelry, locally-made goods, recycled-paper stationary,  organic bath and beauty products — and of course, local and sustainably-grown flowers. Gorgeous and Green recently won the Best of Berkeley 2013 award in the florist category.

For anyone interested in learning how a brick-and-mortar retail flower shop can make it in today’s era of mass merchandising and big boxes, you’ll want to join my conversation with Pilar.

She is blazing a new trail and is the TRUE definition of a LOCAL FLORIST….a hometown, Main Street flower shop that goes the full distance to source from local flower farms in her own backyard. 

Succulents grace the wedding table for a Gorgeous and Green client.

Succulents grace the wedding table for a Gorgeous and Green client.

483274_10151503701057210_305906289_n Here’s her answer to the “Why Sustainable”? question:

A Native American proverb suggests that all that we do today must be done with the next 7 generations in mind.

The mainstream floral and gift industries have many byproducts like pesticide pollution, dependence on plastics, underpaid labor, hazardous working conditions and excessive CO2 Emissions. Additionally, events are the producers of more waste and CO2 emissions. The average wedding emits 12-14 tons of CO2, more than a person emits in a full year.  

We can minimize these negative effects by amending our practices to become sustainable ones.  For Gorgeous and Green, sustainability means using methods that we can afford to duplicate without negatively affecting the environment and people around us. With a lot of creativity and research, we have been able to develop floral practices and offer gift products that allow us to do just that.

Gorgeous and Green wants to be mindful of not just how we leave our world for the next generation, but how we touch those people and places that were involved in the beauty we created today. 

Take a look at our Services section or visit our On-Line Boutique page to see just what we have come up with so far. We’re always creating new ways to save the earth and stay gorgeous.

Another yummy seasonal floral arrangement, using California-Grown flowers from farmers Pilar knows and supports.

Another yummy seasonal floral arrangement, using California-Grown flowers from farmers Pilar knows and supports.

In the second half of our interview, Pilar and I scratched the surface on a MAJOR topic that’s going on right now in the floral world. It regards the concern she and I — and so many others — have about that green florists’ foam, the crumbly, brick-shaped chunk that you often find stuck inside a vase delivered from a floral wire-service. It is a conventional product that has been around since the Postwar 1950s, developed, so it seems, to make arrangements look fuller using fewer stems of flowers and foliage.

The simple economics have (sadly) led many florists down the rabbit hole of same-old, same-old, unimaginative designs based around the foam. I believe it’s a crutch that limits creativity and certainly hurts the people and environment who encounter it. 

Every single week I hear from florists and designers who tell me they are weaning themselves off the product, which is made by a small group of manufacturers in the US and abroad. Those designers are eager to find alternative ways to stabilize stems, such as some that Pilar and I discussed. I will devote a future episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast to more extensive information on this topic. 

The bounty of local farms makes its way into Gorgeous and Green's designs.

The bounty of local farms makes its way into Gorgeous and Green’s designs.

Pilar was one of the first to speak out and warn florists about the risks of using chemically-based foam. As I mentioned in our interview, every time I did a web search about this topic, her blog posts popped up, as early as 2009. Here are some links you’ll want to read: 

(March 4, 2009) Floral Foam: Not so Green 

(September 5, 2009) Biodegradable Floral Foam, Where Are You?

(February 18, 2011) Let’s Change Floral Foam

(August 16, 2011) MSDS Floral Foam

If you’re looking for “green” alternatives to floral foam, check out my blog post about Eco-Friendly Design tips, excerpted from Slow Flowers.

Thank you  for joining me in this episode of the SLOW FLOWERS Podcast with Debra Prinzing. Because of your support as a listener, we’ve had more than 3,000 downloads since July – and I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about her work at hhcreates.net

All photographs courtesy of Gorgeous and Green. Thanks Pilar!

2 Responses to “SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Meet Berkeley’s Eco-Floral Maven, Pilar Zuniga of Gorgeous and Green (Episode 116)”

  1. Gabriella Says:

    Hey there! I’ve been following your site for some time now
    and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Texas!
    Just wanted to mention keep up the great work!
    Gabriella´s last blog post ..Gabriella

  2. Natasha Says:

    Debra,

    I’m watching and excitedly dancing in my seat from Austin, Texas as you and the other pioneers of sustainable floriculture change the face of the industry! Brava!!
    Can’t wait for the directory project to come to fruition- my tiny donation did’t break the goal mark, but every little bit counts. Thanks from EcoChic Floral.

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